On their second morning in the park, James states that he feels too ill to travel. While Dicey suspects that he is malingering, she decides that concern for his health is paramount and that they must stay. It is the weekend, and the park begins to fill with people. Edie comes to the camp with an autoharp, and plays the children a harsh version of one of the songs Momma had taught them, "Pretty Peggy-O." Dicey and Maybeth set out for the salt marshes to fish, and Sammy, who refuses to work, heads for the playground. Dicey catches plenty of fish and heads back to camp, relieved. Once there, she finds Sammy both guiltily and proudly brandishing a paper bag filled with food, which he has stolen from a picnic table. Dicey scolds Sammy but decides it will be too risky for him to return the food, and the children hungrily eat the sandwiches in the bag along with the fish. Later that day, Edie and Lou visit, telling the four of an angry, fat man in the local store complaining loudly that his picnic had been stolen, and threatening to call the police. Edie suspects the Tillermans took the food and launches into a discussion of how few rights children have.
The next day, James again complains of feeling unwell, and Dicey reluctantly agrees to wait another day. In the afternoon, after a day of play, Sammy appears with another bag of food and a wallet. Dicey, both upset and alarmed, drags Sammy back to the spot where he found the wallet, and, convinced that the owner has left for the day, flings the wallet onto the beach. That night, they sing and dance with Louis and Edie, but their merriment is dispelled when the ominous red lights of a police car flash through the darkening park. The children sleep uneasily in the playground.
The children are awoken the next morning by another police car, and watch in terror from the bushes as the police approach their former campsite. They leave the park quickly, and at noon, when they stop to rest, Dicey discovers she has left the map behind. Shortly they find themselves in Sound View, where Dicey tries to convince a gas station attendant to sell her a 50-cent map for a quarter, which is all the money they have left. When he refuses, she offers to work for pay, and the man agrees, giving her the map and another quarter for washing a window. Dicey sends Sammy into a bakery in the upscale little town, telling him to convince the owner that they live nearby, got lost on a walk, and have only fifty cents. Sammy manages to convince the baker to give them a day old pie and several rolls, and the children, who have not eaten since the night before, eat hungrily. That night, they sleep by a creek.
They begin to walk the next morning without breakfast until they reach a bridge crossing the Connecticut River. Dicey is overwhelmed by helplessness when she sees that the bridge has no pedestrian walkway. She crouches in despair, fantasizing first of bringing four heavy grocery bags out from a store and then of dropping them before she can feed her siblings. Momentarily, she wonders if Momma felt similarly overwhelmed by her responsibility for the children. Dicey gathers up her resolve, and the Tillermans march back to a grocery store, where they earn more than five dollars carrying people's grocery bags to their cars. They eat hungrily and later approach the river. Dicey is fortified by their success, and when Maybeth begins to sing "The Water is Wide," inspiration seizes Dicey: they will borrow a boat's dinghy and row across after dark. Once night falls, they climb into a rowboat and slowly cross the great river, leaving the boat carefully docked on the opposite shore. Exhausted, they trudge on and fall asleep in the first possible spot, a cemetery.
Lou and Edie stand somewhere between the Tillermans and the adult world. Like the Edie and Lou, the Tillermans are running away from the adult world, or at least trying to traverse a path through it from one safe point to another without being detected. Like the Tillermans, the young lovers chafe under the restrictions placed upon them and the injustices borne by young people. At the same time, Lou and Edie live relatively comfortably off of money they stole from Edie's father. Lou and Edie chose to run away as a show of rebellion, while the Tillermans have been abandoned and are fighting desperately for their own survival, while dealing with powerful longings for their mother. Because of their money and their quasi-adult status, Lou and Edie live much more carelessly than the Tillermans, patronizing the store and buying their food without worry. Dicey remains resolutely aloof, and she refuses to share their story, uncertain if Lou and Edie mean harm. She tolerates them only because they are close to their own age. Sammy's theft, while it may not have been inspired by Edie's theft, certainly echoes the behavior of the irresponsible teenagers, and while Dicey grudgingly accepts the food Sammy steals, she violently flings the money he steals away from her, refusing to use their dire situation as an excuse to steal. Even in such a harsh situation, her ethics are intact, showing that she is making adult decisions, rather than rash, irresponsible actions.
In the course of their journey, Dicey quickly learns strategies to cope with the almost insurmountable problems before her, clearly exemplified in her first attempts to earn money and her effort to cross the bridge. While coping with these two problems, Dicey treads in Momma's footsteps, making better decisions than Momma did. Dicey becomes overwhelmed for perhaps the first time in the novel when she is confronted simultaneously with two seemingly insurmountable problems: they have run out of food and money completely, and they cannot cross the bridge over the Connecticut River. Dicey solves these problems first by separating them from one another, and then by relying on her intuition and listening to the world around her. When she sees the uncrossable bridge, her hunger overwhelms her, and she freezes in her spot, suddenly understanding the overwhelming sense responsibility and inefficacy that must have plagued Momma. She takes inspiration from her fantasy of carrying and dropping grocery bags filled with food, and quickly sets the children to work carrying grocery bags. Once their hunger is satisfied, Dicey is ready to tackle the bridge problem on its own, and takes inspiration this time from Maybeth's song about a boat, which breaks her walking paradigm and reminds her that they can row a boat across the forbidding river. Dicey's strategies are born of necessity and an unbending determination.